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Justin Upton continued his strong season last night, going 2-3 with 2 runs and a stolen base. After last night’s performance, Mr. Upton is #19 on the Yahoo! player rater. This a far cry from last year’s performance when to put it frankly, Upton sucked. Is Upton really a top-20 player this year? Can he keep up his current performance?

One area where Upton has improved dramatically is batting average. After hitting .273 last year, Upton is hitting at a .304 clip this year. His improved batting average this year is exclusively the result of a reduction in his strikeouts. His K% has dropped from 30.7% last year to 20.4% this year, a pretty huge decrease even after taking into account his age (23). With that said, Upton’s K% the year before was only 26.0%.  I think  Upton’s reduced strikeout rate is for real and that there’s a good chance he’ll hit .300 this year.

Upton is on pace for 95 runs and 82 RBIs. I think he could score 100+ runs this year because he has some sluggers behind him. However, I don’t expect an incredible uptick in his RBI pace as whoever the Diamondbacks bat ahead of their number three hitter is unlikely to post a strong OBP.

If you watch any baseball highlight shows, you know Upton has some serious power. He’s absolutely mashed a few homers this year. I’m really surprised that his HR rate is below his career average and he’s only on pace for 22 long balls. I expect the HRs to pick up for him for the remainder of the season and he’ll finish with 25-30 HRs.

Another big improvement in Upton’s game has been an uptick in his SBs. He’s on pace for 29 SBs this year. We’ve been hearing for years that Upton has huge stolen base potential and he has shown glimpses of that in the past with 20 and 18 SB seasons. I’m not sure he’ll be running as much as the season continues, but he’s likely to steal 25 bases and potentially could reach 30.

Not all current top-20 players are going to continue their performance for the remainder of the year. However, Upton’s improvement this season is for real and if he’s going to move anywhere on the player rater, it’s only going to be up.

  • James Shields continued his dirtiness yesterday. He had 9 Ks while allowing only 3 hits and one run in a complete game win over the Astros.
  • Starlin Castro went 3-5 upping his average too .327. Given his 20 SB potential, Castro is a prized commodity in a year when SSs as a whole have not performed well.
  • Matt Harrison threw well against the Mets holding them to 1 run and 4 hits over 7 innings. Despite the continued success, I’m still not sold on him.

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